Fields faces Men­sch in 24th Dist. Se­nate race .

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

The race for the 24th state Se­nate district pits in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Bob Men­sch of Marl­bor­ough against po­lit­i­cal new­com­mer Linda Fields of Pottstown.

Men­sch is seek­ing his third full term in the state Se­nate.

On the is­sues, there are some dif­fer­ences and some sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the can­di­dates.

In her re­sponse to a Dig­i­tal First Me­dia ques­tion­naire, Fields wrote that she does not sup­port the elim­i­nat­ing of prop­erty taxes in Penn­syl­va­nia.

“Prop­erty taxes are a crit­i­cal means to fund­ing our schools,” Fields wrote.

Men­sch, by con­trast, in­di­cated his sup­port for elim­i­nat­ing prop­erty taxes in his re­sponse to the Dig­i­tal First Me­dia ques­tion­naire. He wrote that he has sup­ported the two ma­jor Penn­syl­va­nia bills re­gard­ing prop­erty taxes, SB 76 and SB 1137.

“SB 76 pro­vides for elim­i­na­tion of school district prop­erty taxes, while SB 1137 will al­low lo­cal tax­ing bod­ies to ex­clude from tax­a­tion 100 per­cent of the as­sessed value of owne­roc­cu­pied homes in 2019,” Men­sch wrote. “These may be the most fair and ef­fec­tive means to elim­i­nate res­i­den­tial prop­erty taxes while en­sur­ing lo­cal schools are funded.”

An­other dis­agree­ment is the ques­tion of whether com­mu­ni­ties which rely solely on the state po­lice for pro­tec­tion should be re­quired to pay a fee for the ser­vice.

“The same tax­pay­ers in mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties served by state po­lice are also pay­ing for ser­vices else­where in the Com­mon­wealth that they do not re­ceive. We are one Com­mon­wealth,” Men­sch wrote.

“Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that rely on the Penn­syl­va­nia State Po­lice should help cover the cost of those ser­vices,” Fields wrote.

On the sub­ject of mak­ing Penn­syl­va­nia more busi­ness friendly, Men­sch wrote, “I au­thored a bill that was signed into law, the 21st Cen­tury Man­u­fac­tur­ing In­no­va­tion and Rein­vest­ment De­duc­tion Act, which will per­mit man­u­fac­tur­ers mak­ing cap­i­tal in­vest­ments in ex­cess of $100MM to claim a de­duc­tion against their tax­able in­come. In our next leg­isla­tive ses­sion, I will work to ex­pand the pro­gram to in­clude in­cre­ments from $1MM to $100MM.”

“High tax rates are fre­quently cited when peo­ple want to crit­i­cize Penn­syl­va­nia as a place to do busi­ness,” Fields wrote. “How­ever, in his first term as Gov­er­nor, Tom Wolf elim­i­nated the cap­i­tal stock and fran­chise tax and has also an­nounced low-in­ter­est loan ap­provals for six busi­ness projects in five coun­ties through­out Penn­syl­va­nia. I am hope­ful that con­tin­ued cre­ative think­ing like this will at­tract new busi­ness to the Com­mon­wealth as well as al­low cur­rent busi­nesses to thrive.”

Both can­di­dates wrote that they sup­port the fair fund­ing for­mula adopted in 2016 to level the play­ing field be­tween poor and wealthy school dis­tricts — one of the worst dis­par­i­ties in the na­tion — as well as push­ing more state fund­ing to un­der­funded dis­tricts more quickly, but they dis­agree on the source of that state fund­ing.

Fields be­lieves one source could be a sev­er­ance tax im­posed nat­u­ral gas drillers in Penn­syl­va­nia.

“Penn­syl­va­nia re­mains the largest gas pro­duc­ing state in the coun­try that doesn’t have a sev­er­ance tax. This has cost the Com­mon­wealth hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in lost rev­enue,” Fields wrote. “This is money that could be used di­rectly to­ward help­ing to fund our schools.”

Men­sch, who has voted to im­pose a sev­er­ance tax, wrote that more fund­ing for pub­lic schools should come from sav­ings earned from pen­sion re­forms.

“I voted for his­toric pen­sion re­form that saves more than $5 bil­lion and shields tax­pay­ers from $20 bil­lion or more in ad­di­tional li­a­bil­i­ties if state in­vest­ments fail to meet pro­jec­tions. Pen­sion ben­e­fits al­ready earned by cur­rent em­ploy­ees and re­tirees would not be af­fected,” Men­sch wrote. “Fur­ther­more, it of­fers all new pub­lic-sec­tor em­ploy­ees one of three dif­fer­ent re­tire­ment planning op­tions — a de­fined con­tri­bu­tion plan sim­i­lar to the 401(k) sys­tem of­fered by most em­ploy­ers in the pri­vate sec­tor, or one of two hy­brid plans that com­bine a 401(k) style sys­tem with a re­duced de­fined ben­e­fit sys­tem that state em­ploy­ees and school em­ploy­ees al­ready en­joy.”

Both can­di­dates sup­port al­low­ing vic­tims of sex­ual abuse by Catholic priests the abil­ity to file law­suits, although Men­sch said he would also sup­port a fund “where they can come and re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion for their ter­ri­ble or­deals with­out go­ing through an ad­ver­sar­ial court pro­ceed­ing.”

“It is in­ap­pro­pri­ate and down­right cruel for these sur­vivors of decades of sex­ual abuse to be vic­tim­ized once again by the lack of ac­tion of the Penn­syl­va­nia GOP se­nate mem­bers,” Fields wrote.

Nei­ther can­di­date spoke out in fa­vor of mak­ing Penn­syl­va­nia’s Gen­eral Assem­bly smaller.

Men­sch wrote only that “I am open to con­sid­er­ing any re­form which would make pub­lic of­fi­cials more ac­count­able.”

Fields in­di­cated she does not sup­port the most re­cent pro­posal.

“I agree with Com­mon Cause which said that chang­ing the size of the gen­eral assem­bly with­out amend­ing ‘the back­room process for draw­ing dis­tricts is not true re­form.’ I am not con­vinced that re­duc­ing the num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives would not neg­a­tively im­pact how cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties are rep­re­sented in Har­ris­burg,” Fields wrote. “One ex­am­ple is that peo­ple in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties would have lim­ited ac­cess to their rep­re­sen­ta­tives.”

The 24th Se­nate District in­cludes the Berks County town­ships of Cole­brook­dale, District, Earl, Here­ford, Longswamp, Pike, Rock­land and Wash­ing­ton, as well as the boroughs of Bally, Bech­telsville, and Boy­er­town. In Mont­gomery County, the district in­cludes the town­ships of Dou­glass, Perkiomen, Skippack, Up­per Potts­grove, West Potts­grove and the boroughs of Pottstown, Sch­wen­sksville and Trappe.

State Sen. Bob Men­sch

Linda Fields

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